NordVPN accused of shilling snake oil on public Wi-Fi

NordVPN has been given a dressing down by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) after a recent TV ad claiming public Wi-Fi was insecure.

The VPN outfit has a point, public Wi-Fi is somewhat insecure, but the advert shows a guy padding around a railway carriage handing out his information to bemused passengers before he’s jumped by some sort of binary criminals.

So far, so very Doctor Who. But don’t worry, NordVPN is here to save the day. The foolish man hits the connect button his NordVPN app and the danger and his private data just disappear.

You can see the ad here,

Thing is, the implication here is obvious: public Wi-Fi is super insecure, and only a VPN can save you from the privacy monsters lurking in the darkness of the world-wide web.

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The ASA reckons this is a little naughty, and has told NordVPN can’t repeat the advert’s claims that public Wi-Fi is this insecure, as the claim is hyperbole. Nine people complained about the advert.

In their defence, NordVPN claimed that HTTPS encryption of webpages “did not mean the site was legitimate, nor was it any proof that the site had been security-hardened against intrusion from hackers”.

They also added that “most public Wi-Fi hotspots were considered insecure since the majority had very primitive security parameters and non-existent or very weak passwords available to everyone.”

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This didn’t help them, as the ASA said in their public ruling that it “considered the overwhelming impression created by the ad was that public networks were inherently insecure and that access to them was akin to handing out security information voluntarily.”

This led to the ASA concluding that the advert was misleading.

Still, beyond asking them not to do it again, the ASA is somewhat toothless, so while it’s a fairly hefty slap on the wrist, it’s not the biggest blow to NordVPN.

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